I’ve been pondering since Spring Break – why am I just now feeling really connected to my students? Its bizarre-ishly late in the school year. When I used to teach on 6-period day, It was early in December/January before I really felt my students trusted me – would take those learning risks I tried to encourage. So why was it mid-March this year?
We had a debate in our school over scheduling earlier this semester, we have been on a 7-period schedule this year. One teacher remarked the difference between a 6 and 7 period day was only 8 minutes per class and that we couldn’t gain much with 8 minutes. But I feel like my room is a revolving door, kids come in, kids leave, another group comes in, then leaves, etc. My closing activities have dwindled to a little of nothing. I am not effectively wrapping up the lessons.
So, I looked at the numbers – 8 minutes a class, 5 days a week, 34 weeks = 1,360 minutes divided by 55 minute class period is 24.7 class periods. That’s nearly 5 weeks of instructional time. Whew. No wonder I am so far behind in my units. We also had 8 non-traditional instructional days – though students were not in the classroom, there were learning tasks completed. But again, that’s 8 more instructional periods. So I have missed between 6 and 7 weeks of instructional time with my students.
Wow. Now, I see why it was mid-March rather than December / January to feel connected and trusted by my students. I’m just now really able to see their thinking, predict their approach to a problem, getting them to step out on a limb and try – even if they aren’t sure. Its only been recent weeks that some have gained the courage to ask the questions in their heads…without fear of judgement from classmates.
Sidebar thought – This is not a complaining session, but a reflection on the year so far… I’m not advocating for a 6 period, but grades 10-12 in our building had a modified-block schedule that was the best of both worlds. Two yearlong periods, with 3 semester blocks. Ninth grade had its own wing and had 5 periods with a single semester block at the end of the day. The debate was to go to a school wide modified – say 4 year long periods (minis) and 2 semester blocks for lab/hands-on learning/CTE/electives while still having an opportunity for year-long courses for core classes. However, it was stated our faculty would be perceived as was not wanting to dig-in and do the hard work required on the 7 period. I respectfully disagreed with this statement, no one in our faculty was trying to get out of work – only trying to find a solution that would support better opportunities for our learners.
How might I adjust for next school year? What are things I can actively change in my classroom and approach that will allow me to make quicker connections with my learners? And so now, I begin to think about summer reading, professional growth opportunities…